Why are Marines Disembarking in Costa Rica? Atilio Boron

Why are Marines Disembarking in
Costa Rica?
Atilio Boron
Translation: Machetera
(A good shitbath for the prisoners at Abu Ghraib. That’s what the Marines use to teach
democracy in Iraq. Now they are installing themselves in Costa Rica to do the same with Latin
Photo: http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/multimedia/2008/02/gallery_abu_ghraib?slide=3&slideView=8
With votes secured from the official National Liberation Party (PLN), the
Libertarian Movement, and Justo Orozco, the evangelical congressman from
the Costa Rican Renovation party, on July 1st, the Costa Rican Congress
authorized the entry into that country of 46 warships from the U.S. Navy,
200 helicopters and combat aircraft and 7,000 Marines.
While the various published stories do not allow a clear view of the decision’s
origins, the limited evidence available seems to indicate that it was
Washington who asked for the presence of the troops. The extremely telling
silence of the U.S. press on the subject and the absence of any kind of
explicit reference to this authorization in the daily press bulletins of the State
and Defense Departments feeds the suspicion that it was the White House
that took the initiative that was favorably received by the Costa Rican
Congress, and demanded the greatest discretion.
What was communicated to the Central American country was that the ruling
situation in Mexico had forced the drug cartels to modify their traditional
routes for approaching and entering the United States and that the
deployment of a strong military force on the Central American isthmus was
necessary to thwart this; a sine qua non condition for waging an effective
battle against drug trafficking.
As might have been expected, the
government of President Laura Chinchilla – tightly linked over the years with
USAID, no less – lent her entire support and that of her congressmen in
obedient response to Washington’s request.
(Women in the Marines also teach democracy)
Nobody should be surprised when Washington resorts to the drug trafficking
pretext, since it’s what Washington commonly uses when others are lacking,
such as an earthquake in oh, say, Haiti – to justify the intrusion of U.S.
military personnel in the countries of Our America.
Nevertheless, what works against the credibility of this argument is the fact
that the countries where there is a strong U.S. military presence are
precisely those that stand out for their increased production and
commercialization of drugs. As shown in “The Dark Side of Empire. The
Violation of Human Rights by the United States,” the U.N. Office on Drugs
and Crime – an unimpeachable source - has proven with abundant statistics
that since U.S. troops were installed in Afghanistan, huge advances have
been made in the production and exportation of opium as well as the
fabrication of heroin, while in Colombia, the U.S. presence has not prevented
(quite to the contrary) the registration of a notable expansion in the area
destined to the cultivation of coca.1
All this should not cause any surprise whatsoever, for a variety of reasons.
One of them is that the country that assumes the right to fight drug
trafficking worldwide shows an incapacity as amazing as it is suspicious to do
the same within its borders, from dismantling the networks that link narcomafias with authorities, police and local and federal judges who facilitate the
drug business, to implementing a minimally meaningful campaign to contain
addiction and treat addicts.
It’s not that surprising, actually, since drug trafficking moves at least $400
billion dollars annually, that are later conveniently “laundered” in the
numerous tax havens that the main capitalist countries (starting with the
United States and Europe) have established far and wide throughout the
globe in order to be re-introduced later on into the official banking system
and in this way, strengthen the business of financial capital.
Atilio A. Boron and Andrea Vlahusic, The Dark Side of Empire; the Violation of Human Rights by
the United States (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Luxemburg, 2009), pg. 73.
For another thing, the weakness and inconsistency of this pretext – that of
the “fight against drug trafficking,” becomes even more obvious when it is
learned that the United States is the number one worldwide producer of
marijuana, something that according to a study from the Drug Science
Foundation, reaches a sum of more than $35 billion dollars in that country, a
figure that surpasses the combined value of wheat and corn production.2
Third, and finally, control and administration of the drug trafficking business
as a means to sustain imperialist domination in the Empire’s provincial
reaches cannot be underestimated.
Wasn’t it Great Britain who reintroduced opium in China (a drug that had been prohibited by the Emperor
Yongzheng due to the damage it had caused his people) the massive
consumption of which allowed the British to balance their trade deficits with
China? In order to push this addiction among the Chinese the British and the
Portuguese waged two wars; one from 1839 to 1842, and another from 1856
to 1860, the result of which were the establishment of two beachheads for
the organization of opium trafficking throughout China: one in Hong Kong,
under British control, and the other in Macao, dominated by the Portuguese.
Why should we think that the United States, the putative offspring of the
British Empire, would be motivated by any different interests when it pays lip
service to the war on drugs? Isn’t it perhaps useful to U.S. interests to have
a Latin America characterized by a proliferation of “failed states,” – eaten
away by the corruption generated by drug trafficking and the consequences
that ensue: social disintegration, mafias, paramilitaries, etc. – that for this
very reason are incapable of offering the least resistance to imperial designs?
The permission granted by the Costa Rican Congress lasts for six months,
starting on July 1st of this year. Nevertheless, this concession, that came
about in the context of the Mérida Initiative (which includes Mexico and
Central America) is a project that has goals but no deadlines, for which
Ibid, The Dark Side of Empire, p. 72.
reason the probability is practically zero that the U.S. troops will leave Costa
Rica at the end of this year and return to their home bases.
Furthermore, international experience shows that in Europe as well as Japan,
the U.S. troops stationed there after the Second World War for just a few
years, later extended through the pretext of the Cold War, managed to
prolong their stay in those locations for 65 years without their chief officers
showing the least sign of boredom or desire to return home.
In Okinawa, the widespread rejection of the local population against the
Yankee occupants – who, sheltered by immunity were murdering, raping and
robbing to their hearts content – was insufficient to force the dismantling of
the U.S. base there.
Incidentally, this highlights the courage and
effectiveness of President Rafael Correa’s government that did manage to
achieve the ouster of U.S. troops from the Manta airbase. And in case a
popular outcry should arise over just this one occurrence in Costa Rica, a few
criminal operations of the type that the CIA knows very well how to carry out
should be enough for an instant reversal, above all with a government such
as that of Laura Chinchilla, eager to prove its unconditional submission to
imperial dictates.
Just like the establishment of the Obama-Uribe treaty whereby Colombia
initially ceded the use of seven military bases to the United States, in this
case, the U.S. military personnel will enjoy complete immunity from Costa
Rican justice, and its members will be able to enter and leave Costa Rica
entirely at will, and move through the entire country dressed in their
uniforms, carrying their combat gear and weapons. With this decision Costa
Rican sovereignty is not only humiliated but reaches ridiculous limits for a
country that in 1948 abolished its armed forces and, thanks in large measure
to this, was able to develop an advanced social policy in the depressing
context of the Central American region, precisely because the oligarch’s
gendarme had been disarmed.
As far as arms go, the congressional authorization allows the entry of Coast
Guard and smaller vessels, but also others such as the latest generation of
aircraft carriers like Makin Island, launched in August of 2006 and with the
capacity to house 102 officers and 1,449 Marines, transport 42 CH-46
helicopters, five AV-8B Harrier aircraft and six Blackhawk helicopters. Apart
from this, the legislation that passed extends permission for ships such as
USS Freedom, launched in 2008, with anti-submarine capacity and the ability
to move in shallow waters. The permission also extends to other boats, like
catamarans, a hospital ship and various vehicles known for their amphibian
capacity to move on land as well as sea. Weapons and gear that basically,
have little or nothing to do with drug trafficking, even in the unlikely case
that this were the real desire of the Marines. It’s quite obvious that they
have another objective.
The Makin Island aircraft carrier (Hey, it’s just to fight drug trafficking, don’t
automatically think the worst.)
This U.S. government initiative must be situated in the context of the
growing militarization U.S. foreign policy, whose most important expressions
in the Latin American framework have been, until now, the reactivation of
the Fourth Fleet, the signing of the Obama-Uribe treaty, the de facto military
occupation of Haiti, the construction of a wall of shame between Mexico and
the United States, the coup d’etat in Honduras and the later legitimization of
the electoral fraud that elevated Porfirio Lobo to the presidency, the
concession of new military bases by the reactionary government of Panama,
to which is now added the disembarkation of Marines in Costa Rica. Of
course, all these moves are articulated within the maintenance of the
blockade and hounding of the Cuban Revolution, and the ongoing
harassment of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. On an international level, the
disembarkation of U.S. Marines in Costa Rica should be interpreted within the
framework of an imminent war against Iran and the grotesque provocation
against North Korea, the serious consequences of which have been warned
about for some time by Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz in his Reflections.
Therefore, the Empire is advancing in its militarization of the region and in
preparation for a military adventure of global proportions. If the aggression
against Iran finally comes to pass, as predicted in recent days, the extremely
serious international situation that will result will push the United States to
try to guarantee, at all costs, seamless and absolute control over what its
geopolitical strategists call the Great American Island, an enormous continent
that extends from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, as separated from the Eurasian
landmass as it is from Africa and which, according to them, plays a
fundamental role in U.S. national security.
That is the fundamental reason for the preventive exorbitant militarization of
U.S. foreign policy. It’s ridiculous to try to convince our people that the
twenty-odd military bases established in Central and South America and the
Caribbean, to which we now add the disembarkation in Costa Rica and the
activation of the Fourth Fleet, has drug trafficking as its objective. As
experience teaches us, drug trafficking cannot be fought with military
strategy but with social policy. And the United States does not apply it
within its borders nor permit it to be applied outside, thanks to the enormous
influence that the IMF and World Bank have over vulnerable and indebted
The experience in Colombia and now in Mexico (with more than 26,000 dead
since President Felipe Calderón declared his “war on drug trafficking” in
December, 2006!) is a testament to the fact that the solution to the problem
does not rest with Marines, aircraft carriers, submarines and gunship
helicopters, but with the creation of a just and fair society, something that is
incompatible with the logic of capitalism and repugnant to the fundamental
interests of the Empire.
In summary: the disembarkation of the Marines in Costa Rica has as its
objective the reinforcement of U.S. domination in the region, the toppling by
a variety of methods of those governments considered to be “enemies”
(Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador), weakening still more the vacillating
and ambivalent “center-left” governments and reinforcing the rightwing that
has made a resurgence along the Pacific Coast (Chile, Peru, Colombia,
Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico). It is a rearrangement of the
Empire’s “back yard” in order to have free hands and a secured rearguard
while the arrogant Empire wages war in other latitudes.
July 16, 2010